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Virtue Ethics & Stoicism

Virtue ethics emphasizes the role of one’s personal character in determining ethical behavior. The beginnings of virtue ethics can trace their roots to the Classical Greek works of Plato and Aristotle. In the West, virtue ethics was the prevailing approach to ethical thinking in ancient and medieval times.

Virtue ethics refers to a collection of normative ethical philosophies that place an emphasis on being rather than doing. Another way of saying this is that morality comes from the identity or character of an individual rather than being a reflection of actions of the individual. There is debate over what virtues are morally praiseworthy, and these virtues cannot be universally agreed upon.

Eudaimonia is a state translated from Greek that means ‘well-being’ or ‘human flourishing’¹. Eudaimonia consists of exercising the characteristic human quality of reasoning as the soul’s most proper and nourishing activity¹. For the virtue theorist, eudaimonia describes the state achieved by a person who lives a proper human life. This is an outcome that can be reached by practicing virtues¹.

A virtue is a quality that allows the bearer to succeed at their purpose. For a sward, the virtue is sharpness and for a race car the virtue is speed. Therefore, human virtue cannot be discovered until one defines the human purpose. Some examples of intellectual virtues that humans can possess include prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance.



1.  Pojman, L. P. & Fieser, J. (2009). Virtue Theory. In Ethics: Discovering Right and Wrong (p. 146-169). (6th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. 

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